Much praise has been heaped on Barry Trotz for the coaching job he did during his 15 seasons in Nashville. He was the first coach the franchise had ever known and they became known for playing a dull shut down style. Never having elite scoring talent the Predators under Barry Trotz effectively won close games and amassed 557 wins over 1196 games.
However with the change to Peter Laviolette this season we are seeing a new type of Predator on the NHL ice in Nashville. This one appears to have greater speed and a more ferocious appetite for scoring goals and so far they have been markedly better than Trotz and his band of Predators.
Peter Laviolette came to Nashville with a proven track record as well as a Stanley Cup ring on his finger. In 759 games coached with the New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers Laviolette’s teams won 389 games.
Between 2010 and 2014 Nashville under Barry Trotz played a very passive game unbecoming of their Predators name. They ranked 21st in the NHL with 48.3 percent goals for and 25th with 47.4 percent shot attempts for (Corsi for).
During these year’s they were not overly lucky or unlucky with their puck luck (also known as PDO; save percentage plus shooting percentage) ranking 18th in the NHL at 99.9 percent.
A clear factor in their lack of success was with 26th ranked 29.6 offensive zone starts percentage. This indicates that they had difficulties moving the puck up the ice and transitioning to the attack.
However since Peter Laviolette became the leader of the pack the Predators have sunk their claws into the rest of the NHL, ranking 2nd behind only the Pittsburgh Penguins with 64.6 percent goals for. Their shot attempts for now rank 4th in the NHL at 53.1 percent.
Most of the turnaround appears to come from an improved transition game as the Predators have jumped from 29.6 percent offensive zone starts to 33.1 percent, which is good for 6th in the NHL. Laviolette is well known to prefer an uptempo attacking style of play, which also helped him to lead the Carolina Hurricanes to the 2006 Stanley Cup.
Granted their puck luck is somewhat above the league average at 103.6 percent and is due for regression at some point this season. However the regression is likely to come from the goaltenders as their 94.4 save percent is very much unsustainable. While their 9.2 shooting percentage should be a number that they sit around all season. Even with this fall back the Predators will still be in the upper half of the league in goals against. Having an elite netminder by the name of Pekka Rinne healthy this season is a great bonus to their team.
In short, do not expect the Nashville Predators to maintain the Central Division lead for the balance of the season. However they should remain in the top three and not require a wildcard spot to make a berth in the post season.
This goes to show what a coaching change and a couple player moves can do for a franchise. I still hear people referring to Nashville as the passive aggressive Predators we have largely seen since their inception in 1998. However these are not your Daddy’s Predators, they are ready to pounce on the rest of the NHL.